The Seed Sovereignty UK & Ireland Programme goes online
by Rowan Phillimore, Gaia Foundation; www.seedsovereignty.info
It’s been almost four years since The Gaia Foundation organised The Great Seed Festival in London, to celebrate the seeds that feed us. It was here, as activists, foodies and farmers gathered together at the Garden Museum on the Southbank, that an idea took root which has the potential to change the face of seed production in the UK and Ireland. Inspired by a Canada-wide programme on seed security, the Seed Sovereignty Programme was born. The aim is simple: increase the amount of agro-ecological (organic and open-pollinated) seed being grown and sold here in the UK and Ireland.
It’s estimated that just 3% of the seed produced in the UK is organic, that is, produced without chemicals and fertilisers. That means that the vast majority of products stacked on shelves and in markets labelled ‘organic’ are not grown from organic seed in the first place. There is a glaring break in the cycle from soil to gut and we are embarking on a journey to close it. What’s more, with five experienced regional coordinators based across Wales, Scotland, Ireland and east and west England, we are working closely with farmers, seed producers, horticulturists and trained and commercial growers in order to conserve threatened varieties and to breed more varieties for future resilience. We believe that a food revolution starts with seed.
On the new dedicated Seed Sovereignty website visitors will find a growing library of resources relating to all things seed. Whether looking for a local supplier of organic seed, for training in seed saving or information about current seed legislation, the website provides a useful stepping-stone to support you in your journey.
The site is also the home of first-hand accounts from the programme’s five dedicated regional coordinators. Katie Hastings, Coordinator for Wales talks here about her first few months in the role as she travelled across the country to meet farmers and growers. You can read her full blog here.
“One of the first things the growers told me is that despite knowing a great deal about land management and vegetable production, many of them didn’t have the skills to produce seed. The art of completing the growing cycle on farm by producing the seed for the next crop is somehow being lost, and the growers I was meeting wanted to change that.
I started by working with the inspirational seed company Real Seeds. Kate, Ben and their team have been producing high quality open pollinated seed for sale for over 20 years. Their passion for seed sovereignty has informed the way they run their business and has led them to encourage their customers to save their own seed. But what has been striking is the discovery that they cannot produce enough seed in their fields in Newport to satisfy demand. The Real Seeds shopping carts have overflowed numerous times as they process orders for a growing appetite for ecological seed.
With a strong market for Welsh grown seed and a burst of energy from growers keen to learn, my work has been centred on bringing these two worlds together.”
Find out more about the aims of the programme and how you can get involved or connect with your regional coordinator by visiting www.seedsovereignty.info